"That's one small step for man; One giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong
For as long as mammalkind had drawn breaths into the dark of the night, they had looked to the sky above with awe and with wonder.
Beneath the dark and shadowy blanket of an endless, plumbless night sky, there was always one celestial body that shined with an even greater radiance than any other: The single moon of planet Earth, Luna. Unlike its fiery daytime counterpart, the moon continuously gave off a softer, more luminescent glow that was easier on the eyes and more soothing to the soul. Ever since the first conscious being had lain their gaze upon the disc of gray light that hung above their heads at night, the collective imagination of all things had been driven, by curiosity and by greed, to make new discoveries over the meaning and purpose of its existence. There was much to wonder, but even more to learn.
Some cultures called it a god or spirit, if only to romanticize those bleak barren craters that filled their vision, or to provide an unquestionable explanation for their existence.
Others deemed it to be some sort of ancient formation, leftover from the bubbling chaos and broken debris of a long-forgotten age in the distant past.
And yes, there were even those that saw it as a technological fallacy projected across the sky on the orders of some unsung organization to instill confusion and fear.
But in truth, the moon was whatever those that gazed upon it wished for it to be. To some, it was a god, and to others, a creation of science and history. No matter the true reasoning behind its conception, the moon would remain as it always was; Immovable, silent, and hanging wordlessly in the night sky. The bickering and quarreling of mortal life on the surface of another planet entirely was not of its great concern. It is the story of the infatuation and the arrival of said mortal life, however, that is worth the telling.
"Clear to launch!"
Here it goes, here it goes! The countdown is starting!
"T-Minus ten... Nine... Eight..."
Okay Nick, just relax, and let the rocket do its thing.
"Seven... Six... Five..."
Crap, what are the chances of this thing exploding?
"Five... Four... Three..."
Moment of truth. Just whatever you do, don't scream!
An earth-shaking rumble enveloped the land, sending tremors wreaking across the world, as though the Earth itself were a monster waking from an eternal slumber. But this was no monster; It was all too real. With a fiery blast, the rocket ship that held Nick and his fellow associates begun to rise off of the launch pad, slowly at first, but quickly accelerating at a pace that made each crew member dizzy. The fox's bones rattled within him, and with all the strained strength that he could muster, let out a pained shriek;
Farther down below, upon the surface of the very world in which the crew was leaving, vast crowds of mammals cheered in excitement and awe, watching as the comet-like fireball tore through the blue sky high above. Shaped like a missile in structure and design, the pointed rocket easily punctured a puffy-white cloud that had been hanging in its trajectory path, causing a portion of the cloud to melt away like cotton candy in water, and raining down on the land far below. It had torn a literal hole in the sky itself.
Such was the power of perfected rocket science.
Packed tightly into the confines of the command pod, built just beneath the pointed nose of the rocket itself, Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps, and the commander of their mission, Sharla Ariess, all braced themselves physically and steeled themselves mentally for the journey ahead, and all that it would bring. Interestingly enough, Sharla herself, being the very same black sheep that had accompanied Judy herself on that silly stage play from decades past, had always wanted to be an astronaut, if only to explore the very greatest unknown: Space itself. Long had mammalkind sought to reach that fabled celestial body. Now, it was time to fulfill not only Sharla's goals, but all of mammalkind's.
As the commander of their mission, Sharla was willing and prepared to do what it took to see the endeavor succeed and its crew achieve their long-term goal: To reach the moon, and to establish a lunar base, in which the trio of astronauts would reside and work for the coming six months of their lives, that is, until the next crew arrived, and they transitioned on the journey back to planet Earth, leaving the new astronauts to tend to what they had left behind for the next six months of their lives. It was a stable and dependable system designed to keep one crew from getting too bored or homesick while away from their homes and stuck on the surface of another planet entirely.
Soon enough, the rocket had reached the outer layers of the Earth's atmosphere, where it gave the trio of astronauts perhaps the most enthralling view in all of existence.
Ancient beyond comprehension, the polychromatic surface of planet Earth was visible for the three small mammals to behold in all of its celestial glory. Vast sheets of clouds were strung together, enveloping large sections of the planet's surface like webbing, with some of the darker ones flashing with purple lightning that illuminated the blackness of the surrounding area, but through the thick of the atmosphere, a whole world could be seen, with rolling blue oceans and flowing aurora borealis around the edges of the planet. The northern lights flickered and waved around, reaching outwards like ghostly appendages before dissipating and being reformed in a consistent cycle of creation, radiance, and destruction, but for as long as the sun stood at its current angle, the auroras could be seen. Past even them, the ice-tipped wastelands of the arctic flourished.
Though the constant shaking and oftentimes rather violent trembling of the rocket ship prevented much talking in fear of accidentally biting their own tongues, Judy fawned;
Meanwhile, Nick took his sweet time admiring what little that he could see out of the considerably small confines of his window. After over three hours of sitting strapped on the launch pad, it was refreshing to get a change in scenery, at least, so he took what he could get and didn't complain whatsoever. Far below, on the Earth's surface, he could see differently shaded patches of green, marking the changes between environment ranging from temperate forests to humid jungles, and even sprawling sand deserts.
One large slice of the visible surface was coated in darkness. Nighttime, for that side of the planet. Within that shroud of darkness, beacons of mammalian civilization could be seen; Cities, glowing with the collective light of a million homes, buildings, and appliances, illuminating their little corner of the Earth. Luminescent streams of roadwork and highways could be seen branching out from the brighter glowing cities like cracks in the ground, or bolts of lightning in the sky, stretching onward into the darkness until they either faded away or connected with another nearby city or road. It gave off the prospect of just how interconnected mammalkind was in its civilization and endeavors.
"Amazing." Nick found himself muttering beneath his breath, so soft that he barely even knew that the words had left him.
There was a whole wide world out there, constructed over entire eons on end, all for the use and exploration of mammalkind. But this world wasn't enough; They needed far more. They needed the moon. For science, exploration, and pride, mammalkind would claim the barren surface of that mysterious planet no matter what it took. There would always be setbacks, tough moments, and regretful scenarios, but in the end, it always brought them one step closer to their final and ultimate goal, to an extent. Every single setback was a learning experience; Every tough moment a chance to improve, and every regretful scenario the perfect opportunity to make amends and do what was needed for success. After years of work and training, Nick, Judy, and Sharla were ready to be the first mammals to set up a permanent lunar colony on the vast surface of the moon.
Eventually, the rocket reached its intended trajectory, and with the moon in its sights, began its journey through the cold reaches of space. As Judy and Sharla made frequent communications back to mission control on the surface of Earth, Nick took the privilege of admiring the astounding view through his tiny window. Over time, he watched as the very planet that he called home slowly faded into the background; Shrinking ever smaller as more and more distance was put between it and them. On the other side of the spectrum, the fox knew that their intended destination was approaching faster with each passing second, and that it would only be a matter of time until they reached it.
Hours passed like this, with each astronaut buckled tightly into their assigned seat all the while. Far from the reaches and forceful pulling of gravity, they all felt somewhat lightheaded, and of course, completely weightless; As though the very tether that had grounded them all to their lush and distant home-world had been severed like a knife through string. A few small items that would have hung loose on the ground, such as the ends of straps and buckle pieces, were now floating around in the air, completely untethered to the forces of gravity, now a seemingly distant memory in this dark and hostile environment. The only thing that protected them from it was their space ship.
All three could only hope that it would hold together properly for the entirety of their mission.
Over time, the rocket segments separated, as they intended, until it was finally just the single pod that contained the three astronauts, and the additional containment bay that held their supplies and instruments for survival, including foodstuffs, shelter, and water recycling devices, allowing for maximum efficiency. Unmanned supply ships were planned to be sent to the base on the surface of the moon every month or so, with each one containing new foodstuffs, medical equipment, and schematic parts used in the building of the lunar colony. It would take time for the colony to be one hundred percent completed, but until then, there was plenty of work to do to keep each of them busy.
The landing came with a rocky settlement upon the surface of the moon, with clouds of gray dust being blown out from beneath the fiery excretions, that was, until the large command pod settled, and the world grew silent save for the humming and whirring of the ship's machinery. The astronauts made their calls back to mission control, stating that the flight and landing to the moon was a success, and now, it was time to abandon the ship and set up the camp that would serve as their home for the next six months.
When all was said and done, and the trio of mammals first set foot out from their space ship, the reaches of the moon and all of its celestial glory was theirs alone to behold.
Before them, a vast and expansive landscape of dust, craters and crumbling boulders spread out for as far as the eye could see. Miles upon miles of utter wasteland stretched outwards, with the plumbless sky above being supported by cracked sheets of powdery stone from below. There was no wind, nor water, nor even atmosphere; Just endless gray desert. Tracks left by old lunar rovers that had been sent to the planet in the past were still visible within the layers of dust and debris, completely untouched since their conception. Without the weathering and erosive power of the elements, every mark left on this planet was permanent. Eternal. Forever. It was a silent and a deserted world.
The surface of the moon seemed both an enticingly beautiful, and cryptically haunting place.
Being a smaller planet than that of Earth, gravity on the moon was far less powerfully, ultimately allowing for the trio of astronauts to have much greater physical strength in comparison to their home world. Selecting samples of old stones and fragmented moon rocks, the three of them soon made themselves a fine collection of extraterrestrial artifacts for the taking. They all noticed that with each bound and step through the lunar soil, particles of silvery powder would stick to their space suits, practically turning them as gray as the very surface of the moon. The dust was terribly adhesive, sticking to everything it made contact with. All three mammalian astronauts had been warned beforehand about this very problem; Told that due to the static currents on the planet's crust, the dust was electrostatically charged, but nothing could prepare them all for just how messy the surface of the moon really was. Within hours, the very vacuum that they had brought along with them to clean up said dust had been clogged up with it!
Thankfully, they had many more to work with that were stored back in one of the rocket's cargo bays, and plenty of time to clean themselves up, too.
Six months, it suddenly dawned on them all: They would be here for six whole months.
Half a year's worth of work, data-collecting, and dealing with lunar sediment that was clingier than Nick's ex-girlfriend. It was going to be a long trip.
3:31 P.M ; Three Earth Months Later
Time flies when you're having fun, as they say.
Over many lunar days, the crew of mammalian astronauts carefully put together the pieces of their temporary home away from home on the surface of the moon, starting small at first, that was, until a large camp had been set up. The main place of residence was a large, tube-like structure made from thin metal and thick wrapping, almost like a giant paper-towel roll, and practically just as flimsy: Without any erosive elements such as storms, wind, floods, or rain, there was quite literally nothing to knock the many structures in the camp settlement over and onto the ground, save for the plight of an astronaut not looking where they were going, admittedly. Things were looking up for all.
It seemed that their work was only just beginning, however.
Lunar rovers, a small communications tower with big wires and other technological obstructions sticking out from it, a storage room, and even a tiny greenhouse had all been erected over the course of their adventures on the surface of the moon. Judy herself took great pleasure in the tending of the plants, some of which were for scientific testing purposes, and others simply to be eaten. With her own background in botany back in the expansive green fields of Bunny-Burrow, the rabbit made fine work of what she put her mind to. She performed tests with the plants, including the manipulation of water consumption, and the acidity of both lunar and Earth soil that was brought with them.
Though, that wasn't to say that moments of fun weren't abound.
"Weeeeee!" Nick cried out as his lunar rover sailed over the ridge of a dusty outcropping in the lunar crust.
Due to the lessened gravity, the vehicle, despite weighing nearly five hundred pounds on Earth, easily flew forward with considerable distance, eventually landing hard on the ground, throwing up a thick cloud of dust and debris in its wake. Here, the rovers that the astronauts used weighed less than one hundred pounds, even with the astronauts upon them. Nick and Judy, with the former donning the wheel (Some might say a bit too irresponsibly) while the latter sucked in heaving breaths of rich oxygen from the tank that was strapped to her back, clearly somewhat anxious due to her partner's antics. Once the vehicle came to a full halt, Judy whirled around and faced her partner.
"Are you trying to break this thing?" She grumbled loudly, causing the fox that sat beside her to snicker with amusement.
"Just enjoying the moment." Nick claimed in his defense.
"I nearly fell out of my seat back there!"
"Oh, you're such a spoilsport, sometimes; You know that, right?"
"Yes, and nearly-falling-out-of-my-seat aside, these things aren't meant for rigorous activities, Nick. The last thing we want is to have one break down on us." Judy chided.
"Don't worry, we have, like, two more back at the base, and another two coming in the next refueling ship, right?"
"True, but you should at least consider just how expensive these things are, Nick."
"And just how much are they, Fluff-Butt?" The fox questioned
"Fifty-eight million." Judy replied flatly, smiling to herself as she watched her partner's rambunctious expression evaporate almost instantaneously. She continued;
"And unless you want the aeronautics committee to bill you, I suggest that you don't drive us over any more craters like that."
Nick swallowed hard, and stifled a nervous chuckle. "Noted." He claimed as he started up the vehicle once more and steered it off down a somewhat safer route.
Having departed from the lunar base nearly half an hour ago, leaving Commander Sharla to clean up the remnants of a recent satellite disk malfunction by herself, Nick and Judy both set out on a mission to explore the terrain around them, and to gather a decent supply of moon rocks for study, though, neither of the two small mammals would deny their simple desire to get out and go on an adventure, if they were asked. Their destination was a nearby lunar basin known as the Mare Crisium; A place where many unmanned mechanical rovers had been sent in the past, but had yet to be fully explored by the likes of true living, breathing mammals, and Nick and Judy would be the first.
Seizing the moment to tease his associate, Nick cleared his throat audibly before sporting his favorite news anchor voice impression and beginning his explanation;
"So, what does it feel like to be one of the first mammals in all of history to explore this section of the moon, Miss Hopps?"
Blinking in apprehension, Judy took a moment to snicker to herself before responding to the fox's inquiry.
"I'd say it feels pretty darn good." She responded proudly and with gusto.
"You best watch your language, young lady. This news outlet does not condone offensive words."
"Oh hush, you." Judy groaned as she crossed her arms across her chest, though not without bearing a smile that egged at the edges of her lips.
"Just doing my job." Nick claimed innocently, closing his eyes and holding his head up in a gesture of ignorance.
"You mean annoying me?" The bunny retorted coyly. "Your job is to drive the rover, Slick, not to make jokes about-"
Her words were suddenly cut off when the rover bumped up slightly before taking a stark dip downwards, all in a moment's notice.
"LOOK OUT!" Judy hollered in place of her previous statement.
Before he could even register what was going on, Nick felt his body jerk upwards and nearly get flung out of the rover's cabin. Opening his eyes and quickly taking in the current situation around him, the fox realized that in his bantering with Judy, the rover had been turned slightly off course and must have tipped over the ledge of a crater. Nick cursed his irresponsibility, but before much else could truly pierce his conscious, he found himself gritting his teeth as braced for impact, all while the rover slid down the slope, bringing the two mammals within it deeper into its depths. Judy momentarily screamed out in fear as her side of the rover nearly plowed into a nearby lunar boulder.
Meanwhile, Nick's attention was momentarily diverted as a beeping noise claimed it in its fullest: Upon his right left wrist, the small, screen-like device that informed him of the outside temperature began to drop fast, only getting lower and lower as the rover and its two inhabitants sank into the crater's cavernous maw. It was of no surprise to him. The surface of the moon was chilly enough on its own, but hidden within the shadows of the lunar craters, where even the sun's light couldn't be seen, the temperature dropped starkly; Completely plummeting to as low as minus two hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Knowing this, the twin astronauts realized the true danger of their situation.
Once the rover finally came to a steady stop, it was nearly halfway down the full depth of the crater, and was partially buried in the thick sediment. It had a few dents in its hull, but was other wise just fine, if not a little dirty. Promptly checking eachother's suits for holes, the two astronauts both came out without a single scratch to show at all.
Now, it was only a question of hauling the rover back to the top of the crater before they froze to death. No pressure.
"Carrots, we need to get out of here, right now."
"I know!" Judy exclaimed as she pressed her weight against one side of the rover's hull. "Now help me push this thing!"
Approaching the side of the partially-submerged vehicle, Nick swept away a few strokes from the pile of dust that had swallowed one of the rover's wheels before digging his hands beneath the rim and lifting with all his might. Thankfully, the rover was as big as they were, fitted for two small mammals, and with the lessened force of the lunar gravity on their side, it was no problem for the two of them to haul their vehicle out of the dust, though, it would be quite a workout to take it back up to the crater's surface.
Planting one foot in front of another, one after the other, Nick and Judy slowly but surely trudged up the side of the slope at an angle, making progress every step of the way. It was a literal uphill battle, and the fox's temperature-reading device only seemed to rise and rise with each step forward, a sign of their progression and productivity. Judy's muscles burned, fighting against the weight of the rover and the looseless nature of the lunar sediment, but with Nick's help, they made their efforts count, for after fifteen minutes of hauling, wheezing, and groaning, they at last reached the top of the crater, where the surface was safe and the ground was solid. Nick fell over and onto the soil.
"Ugh... That was... Awful." He panted, rolling over onto his side in an effort to regain his footing. "I'm sorry... For getting us... Into that mess."
Judy gasped a breath of air as she sat down beside Nick. To the fox's great surprise, instead of getting mad at him, she started to laugh. Giggling, at first, but soon erupting into a chorus of reverberating chortles until she was wheezing. She tried to wipe away the tears of amusement from her eyes, but as her gloved paw clunked against the side of her space helmet, she simply snickered once again at her own mistake. Nick wasn't sure what to make of her actions, but didn't move until Judy had recomposed herself.
The bunny shook her head from side to side. "That... Was amazing... Nick." She claimed wearily.
"The way that the rover fell in... And how you helped me carry it out of the crater... Taking responsibility for your actions... Now that's far from awful."
"You really think so?" Nick interjected.
"Yeah, I do. Sure, you may have gotten us into that situation in the first place, but if it had just been me down there, I would have frozen to death by now."
Silence encompassed the two of them for a few short minutes, with the only sounds being passed between the two of them being their wheezing pants of exhaustion. Soon enough, though, the two mammals helped one another up, started up the rover, and began the journey home, for Judy's oxygen tank was nearing its last few drops of life giving sustenance. Once they had arrived back at their lunar base, they promptly patched up the rover and cleaned themselves up from their little adventure, washing away the physical remnants of it, dust, debris, and small pebbles, but forever carrying what lay nestled safely within the confines of their mind: A truly unforgettable expedition.
7:40 A.M ; Six Earth Months Later
As time flowed, experience bolstered.
For the previous six months, many problems were abound in the work that the crew underwent. Consistent malfunctions, broken items, and parts in need of some fixing. Just another day on the job, as it were. Under the leadership of Sharla, whom always seemed to know what to do no matter how big or dire the situation, Nick and Judy were able to make each and every single situation a valuable learning experience, and never ceased to fix, and oftentimes improve upon whatever they were working with and towards.
But now, their camp was long since complete, their mission nearing its end, and their jobs done at last. It was finally time to go home, and to leave the moon for the next batch of astronauts to take care of. It had been an incredible experience, and one that none of the three mammals would ever forget. There were tough moments, like the time Nick got moon dust in his eyes, and there were fun ones, like the stroll that he and Judy took around the edge of a nearby crater while on a routine area patrol mission, the very same that had nearly claimed their life on that one botched rover expedition. The two of them still talked and laughed about it even to this day. They had beaten it.
It was all nothing that any of them would be forgetting anytime soon, least to say.
When the space ship touched down on the lunar surface, and the three astronauts swapped places with another trio, it was only a matter of time until they were homeward bound. Setting up the proper communications with mission control back on Earth, there was always that one string of words that accompanied every rocket launch procedure.
"Clear to launch!"
And here we go again.
I do so hope that you enjoyed this short story of mine. I know that it's a bit different than what I've written before, both in terms of realism and purpose, but as a part of a neat little collaboration project involving the likes of various AU's with Nick and Judy, I decided to take on the mantle of this particular prompt, and I must say, I had fun writing it, for the most part. It was an interesting experience doing research on this topic, and writing up my take on the Zootopia space program, since I always found it peculiar that in the original movie, that one little sheep (Whom actually is named Sharla, by the way) at the beginning of the stage play scene mentioned how she wanted to be an astronaut, but we've never gotten any clearance on just what that truly means in the world of Zootopia, so I decided to fill in the blanks myself by taking on this story prompt, and to add some fun to it, placed Nick and Judy as characters in it.
Although the story itself is rather short, and doesn't contain much dialogue, either, I am quite proud of it, as I really pushed the detail and philosophy factor when writing it up, and so, it was an interesting experience for me, and I wanted to share it with you all, hence why it is posted here on this website for you to enjoy. I apologize if it isn't exactly to your liking, but regardless of intention, I would adore a bit of feedback on this story of ours in the form of reviews.
Secondly, this wee story is a part of a collaboration project that I'm a part of, along with a ton of other authors (So many that I can't name them all here) as I made mention of up above. If you'd like to read more, feel free to check out the project and the many talented minds behind it. This particular story is one that I decided to try my own on, as I've always had an interest in the space program, and thought that it would be neat to try writing my take on one.
With all of that being said, there is only one more announcement that I'd like to cover in the likes of this little author's note before I sign off.
As some of you might know, I am an author here on this website, and this isn't the first story that I've posted here, you see. I'd like to make mention of the fact that I have a far larger story of my own, you see, known as 'When Instinct Falls'. If you liked what you read here, you are more than welcome to delve into it, of course. I greatly appreciate all new readers, and would love to see some of you there, reading my work. It always makes me happy to know that people find enjoyment from what I create. The story itself is quite long, currently standing at over half a million words or so, but is no less of an enthralling storytelling experience, I assure you. It has recently hit over a million and a half views, too, I might add, so feel free to join in on the fun and check it out.
That's pretty much all that I have to say for now, really. Thanks for reading this short story of mine, and I wish you all a good day.
'Till next time...